Buyers should expect shortages of Brazilian papayas to continue through July.
Continuous heat and an El Niño-related drought have caused the supply shortages, according to a news release from the Pompano Beach, Fla.-based HLB Specialties LLC, which imports golden papaya.
HLB sources papayas from four Brazil growers and all four suppliers are reporting drastic drops in production that were caused by the high heat that killed the blooms, a lack of rain and the start of the winter.
Summer in the producing area of Espirito Santo was so hot that it killed many of the blooms that would have developed into fruits, according to the release.
The fruits that survived were developing small and the heat caused them to ripen before they could grow to bigger sizes.
HLB is experiencing more than 50% of the crop yielding 10s and 12s sizes, while normally, commercial production produces 8s, 9s, and 10s, according to the release.
Citing supplies in too few hands to quote, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 10 quoted 3.5 kg containers of 10s and 12 from Brazil arriving in Miami selling for $13 compared to early January when the USDA reported 8s, 9s, 10s and 12s from the same growing region selling for $9.75-12.
The region usually receives 900-1200mm of rain a year and in 2015, it received less than 600mm.
The missing rain not only affected the crops, but also failed to fill irrigation reservoirs that Caliman Agricola, one of the world’s largest golden papaya producers, depends on to supplement missing rainfall.
“The drought we are seeing in the papaya growing region is historically unprecedented and devastating,” Melissa Hartmann de Barros, HLB’s director of communications, said in the release. “The locals in the area say the last time they saw such conditions was back in the 1950s.”
Brazil’s internal papaya prices have also soared and in some places are selling for three times the original price, according to the release.
Brazil’s winter begins in June, so temperatures are dropping and that should help fruit sizing.
However, the growing regions don’t receive much rain in the winter but as weather patterns have been unpredictable in recent years, HLB remains cautious when providing a forecast, according to the release.
HLB could see the shortage lasting several more months but hopes for the situation to improve by July, according to the release.
A silver lining is that papaya production typically recovers quickly and being a fast crop, trees can resume bearing fruits within four months of experiencing trauma, according to the release.
Robert Colescott, owner, president and CEO of Pompano Beach-based Southern Specialties Inc., co-owns HLB, which operates independently from Southern Specialties.